I’m trying to find out the name of a bird that was eating on the ground like Mourning Dove but looked more speckled and looked like it was wearing a red handkerchief on its head. I can’t find it in any book. Robert~ East Lansing, MI
You need a new book! At our Wild Birds Unlimited stores we recommend the field guide Birds of Michigan by Ted Black.
What your describing sounds like a Northern Flicker which unlike other woodpeckers, spends about 75% of his time foraging on the ground in search of ants. Flickers in mid-Michigan are grayish brown with black polka dots on the belly and black bars on the wings. There is a black bib under their long bill and the males also have a black “mustache.” As you observed the birds have a gray crown with a red chevron on the back of the head (or red handkerchief) and have yellow underwings and undertail.
These big woodpeckers eat lots of bugs and are fun to watch. As the season progresses you might observe these birds taking dust baths to remove oil from their feathers or preening with crushed ants. Ants contain formic acid that the flickers can use on their skin and feathers to kill small parasites.
April is a busy time for flickers. They are looking actively for nesting sites. Both the male and female look for dead or dying deciduous trees to excavate a cavity. If you want to provide good habitat for woodpeckers, consider leaving dead tree snags in and around your yard. You can also simulate a dead tree by placing man made nesting boxes that you can purchase at our stores in trees and stuffing it with woodchips for them to excavate.